Falconry Hub Origins: Kes to Community

‘Falconry Hub’ is more than just a website address; it’s a new forum, a hub, and, hopefully, it will evolve into a brand recognised by falconers from around the world.

Behind every brand is a real person or a team of passionate individuals dedicated to bringing a vision to life. At the Hub, it’s no different - although, in this case, it’s driven by a single person with a passion for falconry and birds of prey.

I’m 42, from the UK, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve loved birds of prey. When I was around 8 or 9 years old, my dad brought home a kestrel. I don’t know how or where he got it from, but I can remember being sat with it in the garden, watching it fly to and from the rooftops of the neighbours’ houses. It was obviously called Kes! I remember my uncle and my dad sat making anklets and jesses out of scraps of leather. I remember having to get up early every day to walk to the shed at the end of the garden to check on it and feed it. I don’t know if it was male or female. There were never any scales or weighing of the bird; my dad was not a bird man at all. He was a taxi driver and security dog trainer. My uncle was more of the bird man; he always seemed to have a tawny owl or a sparrowhawk at his house, in the living room when we would visit. One day, Kes flew away and never returned because he/she must have been overfed. I do remember seeing it sometimes though, locally in the woods near a brook. I knew it was mine because it had one jesse still on. I’d see it and try to call it down, but it would never come.

Another early memory was when a summer fair was on in my town, and a falconry display was taking place. The falconer needed a ‘helper’, and my dad literally threw me over the small fence, and I was then picked to help out. I can’t remember what I did, but I can only presume now that I had a bird fly to my gloved arm or something like that. Years later, I would learn that it was Bob Dalton who was doing the falconry display for us.

Growing up, it was my uncle who was the main influence on me taking up and learning about birds, hunting, shooting air rifles, and generally walking through woods and seeing what was around. He had some lovely air rifles, a HW97K, a pre-charged Falcon rifle with thumb hole stock, and he took me to buy my first rifle, which was the old B2 action rifle with the painted stock, I think it was £30! After that, as I got a little older, maybe 13 or 14, I got an air arms TX200 HC, and I’d walk my local woods on my own with the rifle and a white ferret following me called Floyd. I would never manage to shoot anything from what I can remember though! Not when I was on my own anyway, but when with my uncle, we would get some rabbits and the odd magpie, grey squirrels, and woodies, and I’ve still now got a pair of jays in a display box that we got together when I was about 14 years old. Sat here now writing this, I remember over the years - having ducklings in the house, I had a crested glebe chick from somewhere, I’d collect hedgehogs and keep them in an old dog kennel in the garden, and we always had a dog in the house, as well as a Chinese rat snake, hamsters, gerbils, and things like that.

In my early twenties, I ran dogs with a group of friends. Sneaking about at night in Ford Rangers, Landrovers, and estate cars with a lamp shining out the side windows. Between us, we had 4/5 lurchers; that’s what we called the sight hounds anyway. Thinking about it now, they were bull X’s, and the odd blue whippet, and we had some terriers too. I’d buy the Countryman’s Weekly every Friday, read it cover to cover, and see what was for sale, and we would buy, work, and pass around a lot of dogs over the years.

I also had a stint in my twenties when I was really interested in game dogs, well, just the APBT, to be honest. I have never and would never fight dogs myself, but I was very interested in the subject, buying any books and magazines I could get a hold of. I was fortunate enough to go and see some real game APBTs here in the UK, owned by guys who did match them abroad and at home. Their stories and that whole world of conditioning and selection etc. blew me away.

My love of all working dogs is profound.

Back to the falconry…

I can’t remember how I was first introduced to the International Falconry Forum, but I was a member before I got my first hawk.

I wasn’t much of a contributor to the forum in terms of writing my own threads and posting replies, but I was an avid reader and student of all the topics and information on there. Being in my mid-twenties and new to it all, reading all the threads written by older experienced falconers and practitioners was a real joy and an amazing insight into falconry in the UK.

I was living in a rented flat at this time, so I never had the garden space for the setup of a mews, weighing room, and space to train a bird. But… my mum and stepdad did! He’s a construction worker, a very hands-on type of man who can put his hand to anything - and he would go on to build and maintain all our future mews and equipment. My mum and he were very much used to me leaving my dogs in their care over the years, the lurchers etc. So when the falconry subject was put to him, he didn’t flinch; instead, he was as excited as I was - so we embarked on the journey together.

We built 2 weatherings, which was an early mistake we made because we realised only after the build that it would be better to freeloft harris’ - so after about 2 weeks of them being finished, I offered them for free to anyone from the forum if they would come and collect them. I can’t remember which member took up the offer, but they were more than happy with them.

Over the next few months, we changed the garden, which was a decent size, into what basically looked like a showroom for sheds. A standard 6ft shed for weighing and equipment and a 16ft twin shed with 2 doors, drop down window blinds, spindle windows, and food chutes for our 2 first Harris hawks.

I’ll write separate topics/threads about the journey through falconry we had over the next few years, but in summary, because this is an introduction thread… we became good friends with several members of the International Falconry Forum, I got my first ‘falconry dog’ a beautiful GSP pup from a member and still a good friend of mine Joe H, we would also get to go out on days with members who flew goshawks, we were members of the Cheshire Hawking Club, and the North West region of the British Falconers Club, going to the meetings each month and we had many great days out hawking with both clubs. I got my first falcon from Andy Smith in Harrogate - a gyr x pere/saker female. We raised a European eagle owl from a chick. Our admiration of sight hounds and terriers, progressed to owning a Brittany, GSP, and ESS dogs, training them and working them with our birds. We attended every falconry fair and game fair we possibly could and a major highlight of our falconry life was being fortunate enough to spend the weekend with the eagle falconers. As spectators and beaters, being in the company of the eagle lads flying goldies, a bonelli’s, and even a crowned eagle on hares was an amazing experience. I’ll write about these experiences and more in coming threads, and it would be great for this new forum if other members could journal their own experiences too.

Writing this introduction has been a trip down memory lane, a reflection on the passion that has shaped my life and led to the creation of Falconry Hub. It’s more than just reminiscing; it’s about setting the foundation for what I envision this forum to become - a vibrant community where like-minded individuals can share, learn, and celebrate falconry. This platform is for all of us, from seasoned experts to newcomers eager to embark on their own falconry journey. I encourage you to not just browse but to actively participate. Share your stories, insights, and questions. Let’s create a space that thrives on mutual respect, shared knowledge, and our collective experiences with these magnificent birds. Falconry Hub is your forum, and together, we can make it a rich source of inspiration and information for everyone involved in the world of falconry.

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